Instrumental Access 2016
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Department of Biotechnology
Meet the Department
The Department of Biotechnology at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) seeks to prepare students to meet agricultural challenges in Malawi and the region. LUANAR is the leading agricultural university in Malawi and offers education and research opportunities related to agricultural growth, food security, and sustainable natural resources management. The Department’s labs serve as a core research facility for faculty from other departments across the university.
Engineering Local Crops: Dr. Kingdom Kwapata
Dr. Kingdom Kwapata is a lecturer in molecular genetics and biotechnology at LUANAR with a PhD from Michigan State University, where he was a Fulbright Fellow. His areas of interest include phytomedicine (the study of illness and damage to plants) and genetic engineering of crops.
Dr. Kwapata has patented a system for creating transgenic bean plants that has been used to develop strains with improved drought tolerance, antifungal resistance, and herbicide resistance. The same method has also been used to create plants that can produce a marker gene that could be used as a tool for research and diagnosis of diseases, as well as a gene with anti-HIV properties that may be useful in developing new treatments.
Upon returning to LUANAR after completing his PhD, Dr. Kwapata founded the Department of Biotechnology, the first in the country. His current work focuses on using biotechnology to develop new agronomic traits in plants with the potential to help increase farmers’ yields three-fold, bolstering their income and ensuring enough food for the community. Dr. Kwapata also uses scientific methods to validate the efficacy of traditional medicine, which is the predominate form of healthcare in a large part of Africa.
“Our department is a young but promising department with a lot of talented faculty who are keen to advance cutting-edge research in biotechnology,” Dr. Kwapata says. “We have embarked on an extensive research program of improving indigenous fruits and vegetables that have high nutritional and medicinal properties with an aim of developing new cost-effective therapies for treating local and global ailments. I have no doubt given high-throughput modern equipment, more advanced research products can be unleashed.”
Dr. Kingdom Kwapata at Seeding Labs’ “Positively Instrumental” Event on March 24, 2016